The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

Engraved to Sell

Printed ephemera can be exciting, especially when it reveals information that can be found nowhere else. When it is also a very rare piece with only a couple of extant copies recorded, and its design is intriguing, the discovery is even more interesting. I was thus thrilled when, following a tip from a colleague, I found in the Folger stacks this small seventeenth-century engraved print containing information on where in London one could subscribe to John Ogilby’s English Atlas.1

Folger Shakespeare Library, 266442. Photo by Caroline Duroselle-Melish.

The English Atlas was an ambitious publishing project started in 1669 by Ogilby—an entrepreneurial dance master turned publisher and geographer—and intended to include five large folio atlases on Africa, America, Asia, and Europe in two volumes, with one dedicated solely to Great Britain. Although it was not Ogilby’s first ambitious project,2 it was one that required major investment upfront. This is the most likely the reason why Ogilby created a subscription for the publication and the sale of his volumes.

Author: Ogilby, John, 1600-1676. Title: A proposal concerning an English atlas. Date: 1669. Reel position: Wing / 1750:26.  Copy from: Bodleian Library.

In a 1669 proposal (above), Ogilby announced that his atlases would be illustrated “with large maps, and embellished with various sculptures.” His books would also be cheaper than those printed in Holland. Clearly Ogilby was well aware of the Dutch publishing market. During the same period, he published translations of two Dutch atlases on Japan and China. The English Atlas was Ogilby’s attempt at competing with Dutch atlas sets, for which there was no English equivalent at the time.

Sales must have gone slower than planned, though, as Ogilby printed a second advertisement broadsheet in 1672 in which he focused on a forthcoming atlas dedicated to England, most likely to attract a broad range of customers.

Author: Ogilby, John, 1600-1676. Title: An advertisement concerning the English atlas, with the proposals. February 10. 1671/2. Date: 1672. Reel position: Wing / 2870:20. Copy from: Harvard University Library

Ogilby also advertised a list of agents located throughout the kingdom through whom one could pay and later receive copies of the Atlas; the 1669 proposal only listed agents in London. Customers in London could do their transactions in several places, including Ogilby’s own house and the shop of stationer Robert Paske, which is also mentioned in our engraved advertising print.

With only two printed books recorded to his name, Paske’s printing activities were evidently secondary to those of bookseller, bookbinder, and seller of stationary ware, as indicated in the print and his shop sign (“Stationers Armes and Ink-Bottle”).3 His partnership with Ogilby was likely a fruitful one that brought him new customers; upon payment and receipt of their atlases, they could take advantage of the services he offered and have their books bound at his shop (Ogilby’s proposal and advertisement explicitly stated that the atlases would be sold unbound in quires).

The design of our small engraved print may provide further evidence about Paske’s activities. Unlike Ogilby’s printed announcements, which were letterpress printed,4 it is engraved with ornamental flourishes surrounding the text. These flourishes and the style of italic hand are similar to those found in engraved writing manuals of the period

A page from the writing manual The Pen’s Triumph by Edward Cocker, 1659. Folger Shakespeare Library, 217- 428q. Photo by Caroline Duroselle-Melish.
A detail of flourishes on the same page. Folger Shakespeare Library, 217- 428q. Photo by Caroline Duroselle-Melish.
Another page from the Cocker’s writing manual. Folger Shakespeare Library, 217- 428q. Photo by Caroline Duroselle-Melish.

—but they are also similar to those on maps. Cartographers frequently used calligraphy on their maps and the mapmaker Mercator is famous for having written a writing manual.5

Engraved lettering is present on many maps and other images in Ogilby’s English Atlas.

An engraved plate in Ogilby’s atlas on Africa, Folger Shakespeare Library, 141- 503f, after p.76. Photo by Caroline Duroselle-Melish.
An engraved map in Ogilby’s atlas on Africa, Folger Shakespeare Library, 141- 503f, btwn. p. 376 and p. 377. Photo by Caroline Duroselle-Melish.

The map depicting Virginia, in the volume on America, was engraved in a hand close to the one used on Paske’s print.

Detail from a map of Northern Virginia, Folger Shakespeare Library, O165, between pp. 182 and 183. Photo by Caroline Duroselle-Melish.
More lettering on the same map, Folger Shakespeare Library, O165, between pp. 182 and 183. Photo by Caroline Duroselle-Melish.
Similar style of hand on Paske’s print, Folger Shakespeare Library, 266442. Photo by Caroline Duroselle-Melish.

Could it be the same engraver who engraved both prints? It is probably a bit far-fetched to think so—the hands are sufficiently different to think there were done by different engravers—but as a map seller, Paske would have had contacts with engravers-cartographers from whom he could have easily commissioned this print to advertise the sale of Ogilby’s atlases in his shop.

Much information can thus be extracted from this small engraved sheet, pieced together with other pieces of ephemera, from the fund-raising and sales strategy of publisher John Ogilby to the multi-faceted activities of stationer Robert Paske. As for its distribution, it most likely happened in Paske’s shop among other places. As it turned out, Ogilby would end up publishing the atlas on Asia before that on England. The later, however, was also a road map of England which soon became famous; it is far more remembered than the other volumes of his set.

  1. Thanks to Melissa Cook for having mentioned this item.
  2. See for example The Collation post on his deluxe edition of Virgil.
  3. “Stationers Armes and Ink-Bottle” appears in the imprint information of both New court-songs, and poems· : By R.V. Gent. and The Distiller of London. This latter book was reprinted by Parke’s widow.
  4. This is not surprising as these broadsheets included a lot of information, which would have been faster to set up in type than to engrave.
  5. See David Woodward’s article, “The Manuscript, Engraved, and Typographic Traditions of Map Lettering” in Art and Cartography, Six Historical Essays, pp.174-213.

One Comment


  • Thanks for pulling these pieces together in such an interesting way, Caroline! What we desperately need is a comprehensive study of seventeenth-century English engraving “hands”. Some engravers were explicitly trained in producing multiple kinds of letter-forms, but there might still be individual idiosyncrasies that could be identified. My own work on the engraver Thomas Cross, Sr., suggests either that he used different styles of writing for different images he engraved — or perhaps that he farmed out the lettering on his engravings to others?


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